Winning the rough days

Goodness. It’s been a while! Things have been shifting over the past month and a half for me! This year, April brought exams, two unexpected injuries, and (after 5 years in London, Ontario) the reality of packing up my life into two big suitcases and moving home (permanently?) to Alberta! It’s both scary and exciting knowing that I won’t be returning to London in the fall, but rather, I’ll be embarking on a new adventure… as a Master’s student at the University of Alberta. (What?!?!)

 

Though I’m so ridiculously fortunate to have a fantastic family and job to return to, I always struggle a little bit when I move home — many of my friends from high school aren’t around anymore, so my summers are typically filled with work, running, and family. It’s honestly so wonderful, but it’s definitely a change of pace! During the school year I like to keep my schedule packed, but when I come home, things slow right down. For the past few summers, running has kept me busy after work, provided an outlet for me to release my extra energy, and given me something to focus on.

 

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My family is the bomb. I’m a hardcore fangirl of my fellow Frissell’s. <3

 

But this year, things are a little different. I’m struggling with a few injuries and adapting to some new stresses. It’s been a real mental challenge not being able to run lately — since that’s my usual release, I’ve got some pent up energy and stress!

 
So to help ward off negativity and frustration, I’ve identified a small list of daily personal goals that, when achieved, keep me feeling my best. These are the tiny things I need to check off each day in order to feel good — when I feel good, I’m more motivated, optimistic, joyful, focused, and more likely to make the choices I know are right for me!

 

 
In order to feel good each day, I need to

 

  1. Connect with nature — for me, this might be as simple as a 10 minute walk or watching a rainstorm from our deck. I just need to feel an intentional connection with the natural, outside world.
  2. Take care of my body — this might mean using it and/or resting it. Whether I’m sitting on the couch icing my leg, heading out for a tough workout, or doing some focused breathing before bed, I feel good engaging with and taking care of my body (and indirectly, my mind).
  3. Go to bed a little bit hungry — this one’s pretty specific, but I sleep noticeably better and wake up feeling much more energized when I go to bed with a bit of an empty stomach!
  4. Connect with family/friends — I’m a notorious over-thinker, so it’s crucial for me to get out of my head and connect with people I care about.

 

 

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I get to connect with nature every day at the cemetery. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to meet this little angel, Margo!

 

Super simple tasks, but they make a massive difference in my mental state! Perhaps your list looks similar, or maybe there’s no overlap. I challenge you to notice what your ‘feel good’ list is made up of, and write it down. Even if you’re injured, travelling, sick, or if your day just doesn’t go quite as planned, you can fall back on these simple things and turn even the roughest day into a win.

Today is a couch day

Earlier this week (despite knowing better) I did a workout that was too much for my body at the time.

 

I started thinking:
If I’d done that workout on a day that I was feeling better, it might have been okay.
If I’d gone just a little slower, it might have been okay.
If I’d warmed up a little better, it might have been okay.
Or, if I’d allowed myself some extra time for a more sufficient recovery after that workout, it might have been okay.
If I’d done any of these seemingly small things, who knows — I might have been feeling a lot better than I do now! Or, maybe not.

 

Unfortunately, the damage is done, and there’s nothing I can do to change that!
But I can choose to make smart decisions now.

 

Here’s what that looks like for me: instead of doing the hill workout I’d planned for today, I’m hanging out on the couch with some ice and a not-so-fun minor calf strain. The bright side is, it’s only minor! If I’d decided to push it and do those hills today…. well, that would be a different story! So I’m studying, watching Gilmore Girls, doing some light stretching/core work, and decorating cookies with friends!

 

It was difficult deciding to stay on the couch this morning, since my agenda had a workout in mind — and I find it tough to stray from that!

 

As tempting as it is to use my body, I know that pushing it today means more pain tomorrow. So, after a short pity party, I came to terms with the fact that the couch will be my friend this weekend, and that’s okay! I’ll play it by ear, and hopefully I’ll be doing some cross training in a couple days.

 

I’m by no means an expert at running. It teaches me something new about my body, my limits, and my potential every week! But I think, regardless of your experience with the sport, there’s always that challenge of finding the boundary between progress and injury. To improve, you have to explore your limits and push yourself. But pushing too far can lead to injury and set back.

 

I don’t know the secret to avoiding injury entirely (CLEARLY), but I think a flexible mindset is a massive asset if injury does sneak in! For me, this means understanding that the past is out of my control, but that the choices I make in terms of recovery are entirely in my hands (regardless of what my training schedule had planned for the coming week).

 


Ultimately, we all have to be champions of our own bodies. We have to work with them, and make decisions that are best for them. Sometimes that means challenging our bodies, and sometimes it means resting them. But in either case, what the body needs may not match up with what the mind wants, and that can be challenging!

**The purpose of this post is simply to share my experience with a minor injury — something we all go through at one point or another! Even though these injuries aren’t that a big of a deal, injuries of any kind are hard to ignore and can be really discouraging! My injury is nothing to complain about in the big scheme of things, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frustrate me — and I think others have been in a similar boat!

STSS 6: Leptin — The Satiety Hormone

 

Leptin is a neat little hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat.

If there’s a hormone for this, why do we often tend to overeat?

Note: While this video focuses on leptin, other players (ie: hormones like orexin and ghrelin) also influence appetite. It’s important to remember that the body is incredibly complex, and there are always a number of factors at play!


It should also be noted that the general process discussed in this video is not as instantaneous as I make it out to be! The amount of leptin released is directly proportional to the amount of body fat that an individual has — and that body fat does not increase instantaneously when you eat 3 mini eggs. On the whole, an individual with more body fat will have higher levels of leptin in their circulation than an individual with less body fat. 

 

Walking on [an excessive amount of] sunshine

I’d like to share a few boring, self-centred facts with you:

 

Fact 1: This past summer, I spent tons of time soaking up the sun. My sister and I spent several weeks wandering around Europe, and I spent the remaining summer months doing maintenance at a cemetery (I know, I know. Dream job, right??).
So yes. Lots of time in the sun.

 

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Sending our love back home from Porto, Portugal!

 

Fact 2: Throughout the summer, I was taking a multivitamin. I’ll admit, I’m not the most consistent person when it comes to taking vitamins, but I was trying to remember to take the recommended dosage of one a day.

 

Fact 3: On occasion, I was also taking a calcium gummy vitamin. As a woman and a runner, I know calcium and vitamin D are of particular importance for keeping my bones healthy. As a person in general, I was pretty excited that these vitamins were tasty gummies (because let’s be real, they’re the best kind), so that was a bonus. Since calcium and vitamin D work in tandem, these calcium vitamins also contained vitamin D. Like I mentioned, I only took these on occasion; the recommended dosage was 2 gummies a day, and I was maybe having 2-3 a week.

 

 
Ohhhhkay Kalli. Enough with the random, insignificant outdoor/vitamin facts. Please get to the point.  

 

 
I’m getting there!
So in what seemed like unrelated news at the time, I ended up getting very sick in July. At first, I thought it might be the flu. The nausea came on quickly — one minute I was driving down the highway, scream singing (You know. The kind of terrible, ridiculously loud singing you do when you’re alone in the car?), and the next, I was crumpled over the wheel due to intensely painful nausea. Seriously. I just wanted to pull over, curl up in a ball, and cry! I spent that night on the bathroom floor, and it was, of course, less than fun. To my relief, this whole episode only lasted about 15 hours, and I was back to my regular self by the morning.

 

I was glad it was over, but I was puzzled. No one around me had been sick, so it didn’t seem likely that it had been the flu. I also had some weird symptoms that I’d never experienced with a flu in the past. Maybe it was food poisoning? I decided that it must have been something I’d eaten and I left it at that.

 

Unfortunately, two weeks later, the exact same thing happened!
Same symptoms, not fun.
So I started to get a little bit worried about this. I must have done something, eaten something, changed something… but I couldn’t think of anything out of place in my diet or routine!

 

As it turns out, I had overdosed on vitamin D.

 

If you’re thinking it seems a little bit weird that simply spending time outside and taking a few vitamins (less than the recommended dose, in fact) would result this, you’re probably right. In this case, there was more going on….

 

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I don’t have a photo of myself working at the cemetery, but this is probably a pretty accurate depiction.

 

On top of the 8+ hours/day spent in the sun and the multivitamin I was taking, I found out that that seemingly harmless gummy vitamin had been recalled that same week. Apparently the gummies had more than 4x the tolerable amount of vitamin D in them.
Not 4x the recommended amount… 4x the tolerable amount!

 

Needless to say, those vitamins met the trash can in a hurry.

 

There’s no big lesson here. It was a fluke and could have happened to anyone. How was I to know that those innocent little gummy vitamins were actually working against me?

 

So why am I writing about this…
Well, first off, it’s just kind of a ridiculous story! I mean, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t betting that there would be a dark side to a tasty little gummy!

 

If anything, I suppose it serves as a somewhat violent reminder that too much of a good thing might turn into a really bad, not-so-fun thing. As athletes focused on improvement, I think we can easily become obsessed with ‘good things,’ forgetting that moderation is healthy and perfection is… impossible. Overtraining can lead to injury, excessive diet restriction/control can lead to health issues and/or eating disorders, etc. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that too much of the ‘Happy’ vitamin can leave you feeling much less than happy!


More from this Author

Winning the rough days

Goodness. It’s been a while! Things have been shifting over the past month and a half for me! This year, April brought exams, two unexpected injuries, and (after 5 years in London, Ontario) the reality of packing up my life into two big suitcases and moving home (permanently?) to Alberta! It’s both scary and exciting […]

Read More

Today is a couch day

Earlier this week (despite knowing better) I did a workout that was too much for my body at the time.   I started thinking: If I’d done that workout on a day that I was feeling better, it might have been okay. If I’d gone just a little slower, it might have been okay. If […]

Read More

STSS 6: Leptin -- The Satiety Hormone

  Leptin is a neat little hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat. If there’s a hormone for this, why do we often tend to overeat? Note: While this video focuses on leptin, other players (ie: hormones like orexin and ghrelin) also influence appetite. It’s important to remember that the body is […]

Read More

Walking on [an excessive amount of] sunshine

I’d like to share a few boring, self-centred facts with you:   Fact 1: This past summer, I spent tons of time soaking up the sun. My sister and I spent several weeks wandering around Europe, and I spent the remaining summer months doing maintenance at a cemetery (I know, I know. Dream job, right??). […]

Read More

Acknowledging the Sneaky Things: A Lesson on the Knee Joint

The body has many sly little processes that it carries out everyday — processes that are crucial to our health, but they don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves. We probably don’t even know they’re happening! To give an example, I’ll share a little knee anatomy lesson from a class I had last semester. Hopefully it might help you to question what silent things could be going on in your body right now, and to better understand the importance of these sneaky, highly specific processes that take place in your body every day!

 

The knee joint is, of course, a very mobile joint. Specifically, it’s a ‘synovial joint’: a type of freely moveable joint contained inside a ‘joint capsule.’ Inside the knee capsule, there are two key components: menisci, and synovial fluid.

 

 

1) You’ve probably heard of the menisci before — these are essentially two pads of cartilage that provide cushioning between your femur (thigh bone) and your tibia (weight-bearing bone in your lower leg). They’re impressive shock absorbers (obviously essential while walking, running, jumping, etc).

 

2) Synovial fluid is a thick fluid with a couple of jobs. It a) lubricates the joint and b) provides nourishment to keep the menisci healthy so they can continue to be the wonderful shock absorbers that they are.

 

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Now that we know the components, here’s the cool part.
When there’s no pressure on the joint, the knee takes a break to replenish itself. The menisci act like sponges, sucking up the synovial fluid for nourishment. But when the joint is forced to take on some stress (like when we stand up), these ‘sponges’ release the synovial fluid into the joint cavity so it can act as a lubricant, rather than a nourishing agent. In the absence of lubrication, there’s friction. Not something we want!

 

Let’s put this into some context. Imagine jumping those well-nourished, but non-lubricated knee joints out of bed and straight into a hard workout. Ouchies! Warming up before a workout gives your knee joint some time to get that fluid moving again so it can properly lubricate the joint. Of course, we don’t see that, and we don’t immediately feel it, so, like so many other processes in our bodies, it’s easy to ignore.

 

 

Challenge: Be kind to your body! Work with it, not against it. Do yourself a favour and do your warm up drills! 

 

Yes, there’s value in having the mental strength to carry out a challenging workout… but there’s equal (or more) value in having the mental strength to back off of a workout/training plan when you know it’s best for your body.

 

 

 

 

STSS 5: Macronutrients & The Role of Glucose

 

Carbs, fats, and proteins. Mmmm!

 

How does your body use the food you consume? How does it take what you eat and turn that into running, jumping, swimming, and thinking?

Challenging Routine

Although I don’t like to admit it, I’m a big ‘rules’ person. I like structure.
We’re all like this to some degree. It’s hard to deny that routine is comfortable!

 

This semester I’m trying to challenge myself to be more aware of the rules that govern my life.
The little things that I, and ‘society,’ as it were, have installed somewhere in my mind to keep order and routine in my life.

 

So, what am I talking about?

 

As an example, here are a few of the ‘rules’ I’ve noticed in my life:
– When noon hits, I’m ready for lunch whether I’m hungry or not.
– If I’m wearing anything other than ‘running clothes,’ I can’t run.
– As a woman, I often feel the need to apologize for the way I feel.
– In a classroom, even if I feel like standing, I sit down.

 

You get it.
I’m not saying that these ‘rules’ are inherently bad, but I think it’s beneficial to acknowledge that I’ve made a place for them in my life. I see them as rules, even though they really aren’t.

 

Something to think about. Breaking these little self- or society- imposed ‘rules’ can be extremely uncomfortable, but it can also be empowering!

 

Challenge: Try it out! Take note of a few of the little rules that govern your daily routine. They’re often so ingrained that they’re not always easy to see! Whether you challenge the rule or not is up to you — but allow yourself the opportunity to acknowledge that these tiny rules exist. Once you find them, you might start to question the logic behind their existence. 

Picking Your Truths

Maybe you have a goal that you’re totally psyched about — you’re inspired, super focused, and it’s on your mind all the time. That’s fantastic! It’s a satisfying and productive headspace to be in.

 

But, maybe that’s not the case for you right now. Maybe you’re at a low point, and, although you had this big goal (whether in sport, academia, career, [life] etc), you’ve gotten a little off track, made a few mistakes, or simply lost your drive. For whatever reason, you’re doubting yourself.

 

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Right now, you’re not sure if you can do that big scary thing you want to do.
This isn’t a fun place to be, and it can be hard to come out of.

 

But here’s the cool thing I’ve realized:
You get to pick your truths.

 

The other day, Dr. Jessica Grahn gave a presentation at Western about bias. There is bias all around us. These biases come from our surroundings and they perpetuate our own self doubt. Often, these biases/doubts are subconscious — they’re so ingrained in our psyche, that we don’t even realize that they’re guiding our thoughts and dictating our actions. For example: when I think of a successful person, the image that pops into my head is a well-groomed, well-dressed, white male. I’m not alone in this (just Google search images of ‘successful person’ and this will become clear), and it’s not a choice I’ve consciously made. Twenty-three years of living in the Western world have made this choice for me. That’s just one example.

 

A bias is based on something we perceive, so it is not false, but it’s also not necessarily true. Recognize this. We’re empowerful when we can recognize our own biases. When we recognize our biases, we can locate the origin our self doubts and see that these doubts are based on information that is neither true nor false (for example, even though I picture the aforementioned man as the figurehead of ‘success,’ it does not mean that I can’t be successful, and it does not mean that you, regardless of gender, race, knowledge, etc can’t be successful).

 

Then the best part: we get to pick what we want to be true (ie: I can be successful; I can be strong; I can be fast; I can be creative; I can be intelligent. Better yet: I am successful).

 

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Since nothing is truly true in this world (everything is coloured by perception), we pick our own truths. Often, we choose to go with the bias because it’s our knee-jerk reaction. But remember that there is always another option. We get to pick what we believe and which thoughts we nurture.


The thoughts we nurture and the stories we tell ourselves are the truest truths out there because they dictate whether or not we persevere; we have to choose which thoughts to nurture because those are the ones that will bloom. We have to be aware of our own biases so that we don’t limit ourselves (or others).

 

So if you’re doubting yourself, question your bias, and pick a new truth.
You are good enough.
You can do that thing you want to do.
You can be that thing you want to be.

 

 

Challenge: Notice negative self-talk and stop it in its tracks! Pick a new truth. Choose to believe that you can do that terrifying, exciting, wonderful thing. Perception is the only thing that’s stopping you. Change your lens. Welcome your fears, acknowledge their origin, embrace them… but then set them to the side, get excited, and dive into your new truth.

 

STSS 4: VO2 Max

 

“If I breathe deeper and faster, I’m using more oxygen, right?”

 

Wellllll….

Have You Ever Been Hangry?

I certainly have. If I don’t get food when I need it, it can be a rough time for the people around me! Food and nutrition are so interesting to me — the idea that we have to constantly consume in order to function; the fact that our bodies are made of what we put into them; the fact that this necessary ‘chore’ is an enjoyable, often social event — it’s all just so wonderful, strange, and fascinating to me.

 

Anywho, I love food.
But… I’m writing this on a Wednesday, and today (and tomorrow, and Friday morning) I can’t have any food!


Let me first say that I am not dieting. I’m participating in a 6-week protein requirement study for endurance athletes. Leading up to the study, we took measurements of my weight, height, body composition, VO2 max, and resting metabolic rate. Then the study itself began!

 

The study only affects me 3 days of the week: Wednesday and Thursday (‘Adaptation Days’) as well as Friday (‘Test Day’). My diet on the adaptation days is based on my individual needs and is 100% controlled.

 

Like I said, I can’t eat… so what am I consuming?
Well, my diet on Wednesdays and Thursdays is 100% liquid.

 

I’m given a number of milkshake-type meal replacements based on my caloric needs (which factor in the amount of training I typically do on those days), as well as additional fibre, glucose, protein, and a multivitamin. I can drink as much water as I want, and I can have black coffee and/or tea. MMMMM!

 

(Note: when I say diet, I’m simply referring to what I’m putting into my body — this is not a “diet to lose/gain weight. The adaptation days simply prepare my body for the test day.)


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The first Wednesday morning! It’s basically bacon and eggs.

I was excited to start the study! As much as I love food, I like experimenting with nutrition to see how different foods/diets affect my body.

 

I will admit, I was also a little nervous going in. I’ve tried liquid diets before. One summer, my dad and I did a 10 day juicing challenge to see how we’d feel. I remember how I felt.
I. Felt. Hangry.
I specifically remember returning home from work on the 5th day, beyond grumpy, and promptly making myself a sandwich.

 

So you can imagine my hint of hesitation going into this study. Will I be hungry? Will I be hangry? Certainly I’ll have cravings. What if I can’t do it? It’s only 2.5 days a week for 6 weeks. I can do that… right? 

 

 
As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry! Although I’m only taking in liquids, my body’s caloric and nutritional needs are being met. I don’t have cravings, and I’m genuinely not hungry. It feels a little strange not having meals (I just sip consistently throughout the day) and not taking in solid food, but I actually feel incredible.

 

While I eat quite healthy on normal days, I found out that I’m actually not eating enough of what my body needs. I can feel the difference in my energy during the adaptation days — I feel light, happy, and healthy. I’ve noticed a few other things too. Situations that would normally frustrate or annoy me don’t seem to bother me as much. My mind is sharper and I listen more intently. I spent last Thursday night at a friend’s house making adorable Valentine’s cookies, and (although I would have liked to have tried one), I had no problem just cutting out the hearts. (You have to know… this isn’t normal for me! When I make cookies, I’m typically one to eat half the batter and then some of the finished product. But I was completely content with my shake!)

 

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Pretty cute, right?

 

I’m not suggesting we all switch to liquid diets. Definitely, definitely not! Food is fun, and it can do so much for our bodies! This study is really helping to remind me of the difference it makes when I make the choice to give my body what it needs.

 

Challenge: Think about your diet this week! Are you getting what you need? Do you know what you need? It can be so confusing! Maybe you’ll decide to do some research, try a new cookbook, experiment with lentils, introduce more water into your diet, or put some time into prepping balanced meals. Try making small changes and pay attention to how they make you feel! 

 

Happy Eating!